The mountains of Catorce

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GEOGRAPHY OF REAL DE CATORCE

The municipality of Catorce is in the state of San Luis Potosi and its administrative center or head of county is the town of Real de Catorce, which today has 1,200 inhabitants. It is located at 2,750 meters above sea level. The longitude and latitude for the Real de Catorce are 23°41' N 101° E, very near the Tropic of Cancer. It is located in one of the peaks of the mountain range, parallel to the Sierra Madre Oriental. This mountain range is about 60 kilometers long by 30 kilometers wide, has several peaks above 3,000 meters: the hills of El Barco (the highest in San Luis Potosi, with 3,333 meters), Borrego (3,270 m). El Quemado, La Leona, El Lucero and others. The part of the mountain range where Real de Catorce is located used to be called the Astillero Mountain Range. It was an impenetrable range where poplars flourished and where occasionally indigenous Chichimecas tribes of the Negritos and Bozales would go into when escaping persecution from the Spaniards. When mine exploitation began, the first settlers of Catorce did away with all the trees in the region; predators as they were, they did not even slightly worry to reforest and a few years after the foundation of Real, not even a bush existed in the surroundings. The region of Catorce includes both Catorce' mountain range and the lowland and is located in the northeastern part of central highland. Towards the east, the highland stretches out for some tens of kilometers and to the west by several hundred kilometers, until they reach the Sierra Madre Occidental in its Durango's portion. Towards this direction, the lowlands are the natural and cultural reserve of Wirikuta, the sacred land of the Wixarrica people (Huichol), where they collect the híkuri (peyote). In the Sierra de Catorce one can contemplate the most breathtaking landscapes of the central highlands, to appreciate it you just need to take a small walk from downtown Real de Catorce towards the cemetery or, for an even more wonderful sight, climb one of the hills that surround Real. If you want to reach the forest, you have to walk about three or four hours to the ranch of Alamitos and then you can start to see a fairly small one. If you continue in the direction of Alamarito you can enter a more dense forest. It is possible to camp almost anywhere, but you must have water, because there are no streams in the ranches beyond Alamitos and Alamarito. If you enjoy hiking, from Alamarito you can go to Real de la Maroma, eight hours ahead, and there you can find permanent streams and dense forests. However, there are much more relaxed excursions. Simply climbing the Tajos or Tuzas neighborhood in Real, lets you appreciate the greatness of the geography of Catorce. It is not good to exceed in hiking because if you are not used to the altitude, you may get tired more than usual. If you bring a camera, remember that the luminosity is higher here than elsewhere and it is better to take your photos early in the morning or in the afternoon. The blue sky here is impressive and the starry nights are so beautiful or more than what you can imagine. You are invited to see for yourself.

 

FLORA

By: Josafat Ortíz Becerril

Most forests that were near Real de Catorce, whether poplar or oak, disappeared in the mine exploitation period, because wood was used to feed the boilers of the multiple mines, so the vegetation in the municipality of Catorce is not very abundant, but not so in number of species, as you can find biznagas (Bishop´s weed), gobernadora, lechuguilla, maguey, mesquites, oregano, peyote, pirul (pepper tree), different varieties of cacti, medicinal plants, Nopal (prickly pear cactus) and even some oak forests can be found although not very abundant, near Alamitos. Problems with the illegal exploitation of timber and cactus, are now virtually nil, although there are no mapped reserves or biological corridors. The change in land use for agriculture is very low and in the urban area of the municipality, reforestation activities have been carried out, although the exact area is unknown. Nor is there approval for exploitation, the only permits are for the use of medicinal plants, Quiote of maguey and peyote, which only the Huicholes are allowed to exploit. Most of the flora of the place are cacti, which have adapted to extreme and dry climates, thanks to their composition; they are covered with spines, which do not have pores on the leaves as much of the plants do, water loss is reduced to a minimum, furthermore these thorns provide a kind of shade to the plant, and create an insulating layer of fresh air and protect the plant from potential predators; for these reasons they only bloom for a short time, because this loss of water through flowers, fruits and leaves can be fatal. Therefore, the diversity of environments in the Sierra de Catorce has stimulated a large variety of plant life in the municipality where a large number of Mexico's native vegetation can be found, among others, thorny forest, oak forest, xerofilia bush.


WILDLIFE

Wildlife, although apparently not very abundant in this region, is numerous, although most animals are difficult to observe because they have night habits. They live far from humans, or insects are very small. There is no migration of species, nor is there poaching in the municipality, but there is neither an authority on wildlife management, or reservation areas for wildlife. The most common animals are hare, rabbit, rattlesnake, deer and birds of prey. On the other hand, there is pig and beef cattle farming, although it is usually for self-use. Goat grazing is done on a larger scale because of the rugged conditions of the land.

 

 

 

© 2008, Hiram GellonaPanoramic
Panoramic

 

 

© 2008, Hiram GellonaView of the desert
View of the desert

 

 

© 2008, Hiram GellonaWirikuta, the Huichols sacred place
Wirikuta, the Huichols sacred place

 

 

© 2008, Hiram GellonaRuins of the Concepción Mine
Ruins of the Concepción Mine

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